Diet, exercise, and sleep are three pillars of a healthy life. While improving just one of these lifestyle factors can help people lead longer lives, several recent studies have suggested that improving all three may be a better way to improve both physical and mental health.
The Relationship Between Diet, Exercise, and Sleep
Diet, exercise, and sleep influence one another in complex ways. Learning about how these activities affect one another is an important part of understanding why research has shown that the more of these lifestyle behaviors you improve, the better your well-being.
Diet and nutrition affect virtually all aspects of our health. Eating a healthy, balanced diet has been shown to reduce the risk of a myriad of health conditions, from heart disease and stroke to diabetes and obesity. Diet can also affect our mental health, with several studies suggesting that certain diets may reduce the risk of developing depression and anxiety.
Food can either fuel or foil a workout, and research shows that combining a healthy diet with adequate exercise offers more benefits than improving a diet alone.
The right combination of fluids, carbohydrates, and protein, eaten at the right time, can improve athletic performance and decrease fatigue. Poor dietary choices, like eating right before a high-intensity cardio workout, can lead to increased nausea and make exercise more challenging.
What we eat also impacts sleep quality and duration. Caffeine is notorious for making it more difficult to fall asleep, and eating too close to bedtime can lead to sleep disruptions.
Exercise is a cornerstone of health and benefits nearly every system in the body. Many of the benefits are seen immediately, like reduced anxiety, lowered blood pressure, and better sleep.
Consistent exercise offers even more long-term benefits, including better weight management, stronger bones, and a reduced risk of more than 35 diseases.
A substantial amount of research has shown that getting regular exercise can improve sleep. Both aerobic exercise (like cardio and running), as well as resistance exercise (like weightlifting), can improve sleep quality.
Sleep offers the body and brain time to restore and recover, affecting nearly every tissue in the body. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep, yet almost one-third of Americans are getting less than 6 hours per night.
Sleep deprivation increases the risk of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Prolonged sleep deprivation can also affect concentration and other cognitive functions.
Sleep allows muscle tissue time to recover between workouts. Sufficient sleep is also important in having the energy to exercise. Not getting enough sleep can lead to being less physically active during the day and reduced muscle strength during workouts. Sleep deprivation can also affect the safety of exercise.
Which Is Most Important: Diet, Exercise, or Sleep?
Improving Sleep 💤 Through Diet 🥗 and Exercise 💪🏼
While most people know that diet and exercise are two important ways to improve their health, sleep is often overlooked. Sleep hygiene, which involves recommendations that promote quality sleep, is a good place to start if you’re looking to improve your sleep.
Since sleep is an essential component of our overall well-being, and when we don't get enough of it, it can have a significant impact on our mental and physical health. Fortunately, there are simple steps we can take to improve our sleep hygiene, starting with our diet and exercise habits.
📌Don't eat too late: It's important to give your body time to digest after eating large meals, so try to have dinner earlier in the evening. By allowing your body to properly digest, you'll avoid indigestion, heartburn, and other sleep-disrupting symptoms.
📌Avoid caffeine: Caffeine, found in coffee, energy drinks, and soda, can keep you up at night and make it difficult to fall asleep. Try to limit your caffeine intake, and if you do indulge, do so earlier in the day to give your body time to metabolize it. Remember, excessive caffeine consumption during the day can also be a sign that you're not getting enough sleep at night.
📌Move your body: Regular exercise can improve your sleep quality and help you fall asleep faster. Aim for moderate exercise a few days a week, and try to avoid working out too close to bedtime. This will give your body time to wind down and get into a relaxed state conducive to sleep.
📌Get some light: Natural light exposure during the day can help regulate your body's natural sleep rhythms. Try to exercise outdoors, soak up some sun, or simply take a walk during your lunch break to get some much-needed exposure to natural light.
Remember, small changes in your diet and exercise habits can have a significant impact on your sleep hygiene. So, take care of yourself, make sleep a priority, and watch as your overall health and well-being improve!